L.A. Now Live: Brown, lawmakers broker prison deal

Inmates in Unit B at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, Calif., exercise and a talk in the yard in October.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
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Join us at 9 a.m. when we talk with Times reporter Chris Megerian about how the governor and legislative leaders ended their impasse over reducing prison crowding.

With only four days left in this year’s legislative session, the deal resolves a dispute over the best way to abide by an order from federal judges to shed more than 9,600 inmates from California’s packed lockups by Dec. 31.

Under the compromise, the state would ask a panel of three federal judges for time to expand rehabilitation programs aimed at reducing the number of inmates who, after serving their time, commit new crimes and return to prison.


If the judges reject an extension, the state will implement Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to spend $315 million this year to move inmates to private prisons, county jails and other facilities. The money for the extra housing would come from the state’s $1.1-billion reserve.

The price tag is expected to increase to $415 million in each of the following two years.

Officials have already begun preparations to move prisoners, and the governor has pledged to comply with the court order without releasing any inmates early.

The Legislature still must vote on the new plan, which incorporates key elements of a proposal from Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). Steinberg initially had called Brown’s plan inadequate, insisting on more programs to address drug abuse and mental illness.